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Addressing maintenance of group identity

on 30 November 2010.

KUCHING: It is a wonderful platform for researchers, academics and everyone involved in the sustenance of language and culture, to share their work on issues of great importance in today's globalised society.

Vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Datuk Prof Dr Khairuddin Ab Hamid said this when commenting on the International Conference on Minority and Majority: Language, Culture and Identity, held at Hilton Kuching here, yesterday.

He also said that human societies in the world are becoming more and more pluralistic in terms of languages and cultures, while at the same time building overall identity on the basis of the language and culture of the majority.

“Pluralism may invite conflicts, that is, communities compete for the rights within a nation state. Nonetheless, an equitable form of balance in an eco-linguistic system may be achieved where multi-ethnic and multi-lingual communities settle in solidarity and ‘lesser communities' are positioned in a less threatening environment,” Khairuddin added.

Meanwhile, he believes that the conference will address public policies in the maintenance of group identity through language and culture and factors for and against assimilation or integration of minority language and culture into the general policy.

He said there has been a growing interest with issues concerning majority and minority relations and integration, and the issues have been increasingly growing in importance world-wide.

“Minority issues can become delicate issues particularly when it is politicised. For instance, minority rights to learn mother tongue language in schools or to use the mother tongue as medium in schools may run counter to national agendas and policies,” he said.

Speaking about Unimas' contribution to research on languages and cultures of Sarawak, Dr Khairuddin said Unimas is also concerned about the preservation of languages and cultures of the indigenous in the state.

“We have linguists working with our IT researchers on translation of Iban and Melanau texts to Bahasa Melayu, in order to preserve the indigenous knowledge that may be lost when the languages fall into disuse among the younger members of the communities,”

“They are also uncovering the fusion of cultures and identities of different ethnic groups, foreshadowing the emergence of the 1Malaysia identity,” he explained.

Since 1997, Unimas has been actively involved in research collaboration with their counterparts in the Borneo region, mainly with institutions in Kalimantan. They have also set up the Institute of South-Asian Studies (IEAS) at Unimas, which is the first of its kind to be set up in an Asean country.

Besides that, it coordinates and promotes a range of inter-disciplinary programmes and activities to advance a better understanding of current events and projected change in the regional and global socio-economic environment.

However, Sarawak is still a gold mine where language, cultural and biodiversity research is concerned.

“We seek to be the hub of the research on language and cultural diversities in the Borneo region, and hope to host many more conferences in the future.

“I also hope that this conference is the beginning of many research collaborations and social networking on language and culture issues.

Unimas will play an active role as the proponent championing the sustenance of minority group languages and cultures in the Borneo region,” he said.

 

Extracted from The Borneo Post.

Arkib Berita

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia Telephone: +60 82581000/+60 82581388, Fax: +60 82 665 088, Email: corporate@unimas.my
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